Author: Thomas Bushlack

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:

Zechariah 9:9-10 Psalm 145 Romans 8:9, 11-13 Matthew 11:25-30 Having come off of the Easter season and a series of Feast Days (Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi, Saints Peter and Paul), there’s something comforting about returning to the green vestments of Ordinary Time!  After all this partying, what are the readings speaking to us this week (even as we continue partying with the ‘secular’ feast day of the Fourth of July)?  At first glance, these “ordinary” readings do not seem to hold much that relates to moral theology.  But as I have written previously, the early church and medieval theologians read Scripture as if it contained more than just the plain or the literal level of meaning.  For them, Scripture contains two senses: a literal and spiritual sense.  The spiritual sense is understood as an extension of that which is contained within the literal, but it takes us more deeply into the layers of meaning that God wishes to communicate through every single syllable or letter of Revelation. The spiritual sense can be further divided into the ways in which the text speaks to (1) the reality of Christ, (2) morality, and (3) mystical contemplation of the divine presence in the Word and in all things.  At the literal level, Zechariah is clearly writing about the Messianic hopes of the Israelites, who expected the return of a king in...

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Rest and Restlessness: A Tribute to Dr. Terry Nichols

I have just returned from the funeral Mass for Dr. Terry Nichols, a member of the theology department at the University of St. Thomas for the past 27 years.  Although I had only known him for the last 3 years since I joined the department here, my impressions of him have been confirmed by the many comments I have heard from others.  He was tirelessly enthusiastic about his work in theology, and in particular in his dedication to interfaith dialogue as the founding director of the Muslim-Christian Dialogue Center at St. Thomas. When I first arrived at St. Thomas in 2011 Terry’s office was located adjacent to the faculty lounge where the coffee machine is located.  Since I frequented this locale to refill my cup often, Terry would regularly come out and speak with me in his gentle but passionately engaged manner.  Inevitably, he would be teeming with excitement over some new theological discovery he had made.  I recall him telling me that he received a random email from a Muslim scholar in Iran who was looking for Christian dialogue partners in the West but had been unable to make any connections.  Terry was giddy with excitement about the prospect of meeting with this scholar and his colleagues, and after following up with this gentlemen he eventually arranged for several members of our department to meet with a group...

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Third Sunday in Ordinary Time: Dissolution and Healing

Isaiah 8:23-9:3 Psalm 27 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17 Matthew 4:12-23 Both Isaiah and Matthew begin with a reference to the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali, and the road to the West of the Jordan river near Galilee.  And I admit I had to do a little research to see what the significance of that land is.  It turns out that Zubulun and Naphtali are the names of two tribal lands occupied by the Israelites after settling in the promised land.  As they were some of the lands farthest to the North, they were also the first two lands to be destroyed during the Assyrian invasion of the northern kingdom of Israel (see 2 Kings 15:29-17:6).  The entire northern kingdom was eventually destroyed, leaving the people there who would eventually become the Samaritans (hence, why it is referred to as the “Galilee of the Gentiles”).  After the destruction of the northern kingdom only the land of Judah and its capital of Jerusalem in the South remained of the original twelve tribes.  Thus, the lands of Zubulun and Naphtali can be taken symbolically to represent the beginning of the dissolution of the unity of the Israelite people, torn apart by internal fraction (the split between the northern and southern kingdoms) and by external invading forces (Assyria, then later Syria, Babylon, Greece, Rome…). First, note that Isaiah prophecies a return of this...

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Pope Francis on the Feast of St. Francis: Healing Words, Where Next?

This post is part of our series on Pope Francis’ interview in America magazine. The other posts can be found here (Meghan Clark, Jason King, Ramon Luzarraga). Pope Francis’ interview in American magazine, as well as his recent interview with Eugenio Scalfari, an avowed atheist and founder of the Italian media outlet La Repubblica, reads to me like lectio divina.  I read a bit, I pause, I ponder the meaning of his words, I sense depth beyond the surface level, it affects me deeply – I even admit to having wept, I have been so touched.  As I read I feel like I am sitting in his apartment along with him.  Pope Francis’ words are – in a word – healing.  Under the section, “The Church as Field Hospital,” he speaks of the need to heal wounds five times as one of the most important goals of the church today.  He also speaks repeatedly of warming people’s hearts so that they may love more freely. As a moral theologian I take it as a foundational principle that people are motivated to act more on what they love and desire as good than by what they fear (not that the latter can’t also be a powerful motivator, but ultimately love triumphs and is more foundational).  This is actually a basic principle of action first articulated by Aristotle and developed in...

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Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time: A Sacred, Open Heart

Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4 Psalm 95 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14 Luke 17:5-10 In the back of the church where we are members there is a statue of the sacred heart of Jesus that we pass on the way to take the kids to the bathroom (which seems to happen frequently, usually right in the middle of the homily).  My kids, who are four and two years old, seem oddly intrigued by it.  They almost always ask me, “Is that Jesus?”  One time I tried to explain how he was pointing at his heart because he had a lot of love and compassion for all people.  And I have memories, particularly from my very Catholic grandmother, of those cards or bookmarks with the image of the sacred heart of Jesus on them (like the one pictured here). The readings for this week all seem to focus on the violence and suffering of being human.  I was just at a meeting with a group of professional colleagues, and we wondered out loud if anyone can make it through this life and our culture without experiencing some kind of trauma?  These can be overt acts of violence, but there is a more subtle form of violence – the kind that slowly, almost imperceptibly, convinces us that we need to close ourselves off to our bodies, our feelings, our deepest aspirations, our natural sense...

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